Waldorf window star tutorial 

I love making Waldorf stars. They look so beautiful when stuck to a window, and are especially magical when catching the pale winter light. They are deceptively easy to make, and are lovely decorations all year round.

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Window stars

Below I have given step-by-step instructions to make a simple, eight-pointed Waldorf star, but there are many variations which can be found online! Here I have shown a multi-coloured star, but single colour stars also look beautiful.

You will need:

  • Kite paper
  • PVA glue

To make Waldorf window stars: 

Step 1: Take a piece of kite paper. Smaller stars can be made by cutting a piece of paper into quarters first. 

Step 2: Fold the paper in half.

Step 3: Fold it back into a square, then in half the opposite way.

Step 4: Fold a corner down into the centre.

Step 5: Repeat with the remaining three corners.

Step 6: Fold one corner in, creating a straight line down the middle.

Step 7: Repeat with the other side.

Step 8: Repeat the whole process with seven more pieces of paper.

Step 9: Stick each piece together, making sure you glue with the folded side facing up.

Step 10: When the star is glued together, turn it round so the folds are at the back. It’s now ready to be glued to a window, using a dab of glue in the centre and at each tip.

Do you enjoy making these stars? Which style do you like the best?

I have a few more wintry posts planned over the next few weeks on how we will be celebrating Christmas as a secular family, some tips for a greener Christmas, and sharing the gifts we have bought Frida. Have you seen my Montessori-friendly gift guide and my list of Winter books we are enjoying

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Montessori Gifts for Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers

With the festive season fast approaching, I have updated my Montessori-friendly gift guide. I hope you find it useful!

Below are a selection of toys I feel pretty sure would be welcomed by any family with an interest in the Montessori ethos –  or actually, any family at all. They are well made, beautiful, mostly made of natural materials, and invite open-ended creative play. A few are classic Montessori, a few are Waldorf-inspired, and a few are just classic toys which any child would love.

I have categorised these items by type rather than age (apart from infant). This is because our children are all different, and tend to pay no attention to age restrictions on toys – a 13 month old and a 28 month old might well both enjoy the same item, albeit perhaps using it in a slightly different way (that’s the beauty of open-ended toys).

I haven’t included books in this list – it would be too long if I listed all our favourites. Needless to say, books make a fantastic gift for any age child. Some of our favourite non-fiction books can be found here, and I’m confident that most young children would enjoy finding one of these under their tree!

INFANT

Rainbow bead grasper. Such a beautiful toy for babies – a sensory delight.

Mobile. There are just so many mobiles out there that I didn’t have time to go through them all! A simple design which could be hung anywhere would be a winner though.

Interlocking disks. A Montessori classic material for babies. Really well made and a treasure for any keepsake box.

Soft baby. At 7cm these are ideal for babies who are just beginning to grasp.

Pop-Up Toy. A classic toy, which Frida played with for a long time, and one which I have gifted many babies. One of our all time favourite toys, and very reasonably priced.

Nesting cups. A great gift for a younger baby or toddler, and can be used for imaginative play as they get older. Again, this is one of my go-to gifts when buying for a new baby. Frida still plays with hers daily at two and a half!

Rattle. How beautiful is this rattle? It would make a lovely gift for a young baby.

Soft ball. A beautiful felted ball to engage the senses, this would be used for years.

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GRIMMS WOODEN TOYS

We really love Grimms wooden toys in our home!

Open-ended, ethically made, and beautifully tactile, these toys are really very special. They make such wonderful gifts, and can be used in endless ways.

Some of my favourites include the large rainbow, the semi-circles, the stacking boxes, the dolls and doll’s furniture (including the gorgeous mobile home), and the many different stackers (we have the cave and waves).  They also sell stunning building sets, blocks, cars, peg dolls… I could go on.


FOSTERING IMAGINATIVE PLAY

Dolls (Anatomically correct plastic baby / Waldorf-style dolls). Frida has a very simple plastic baby doll with a soft body (similar here) which has served her well. Dolls are so important for boys and girls alike and I think young children are really drawn to them.

Doll sling. A wonderful gift for a child who already owns a doll!

Blocks (simple blocks here / beautiful natural ones here). A staple for every household.

Play silks. These are such a beautiful, open-ended material. In our home they are used as doll slings, as backgrounds for playing, as decorative materials, for hiding and playing peek-a-boo, for dressing up… These make a lovely gift for a child of any age!

Wooden animals and figures (Holztiger / Ostheimer). Frida’s Holztiger wooden animals have been such a joy, for her and for us to use with her. Beautifully made, pleasant to handle, and perfect for open ended play for years to come. She plays with them day in, day out, and I often buy them for gifts. We also love the trees, and this year I have bought Frida some play grass and a wooden well.

Schleich animals. I am sure these are found in every Montessori home! Anatomically correct, versatile, resilient, these are amazing and make fantastic gifts. Frida has some farm animals in adult / baby pairs (great for matching activities for younger toddlers) and some sea animals which she uses in the bath.

Vehicles (cars / fire truck / fork lift / horse on wheels / aeroplane). I love simple vehicles (we have the Grimms cars and a Plan truck), but I’m sure most would go down well with toddlers.

Dolls house. These would make an incredible gift for an older toddler or child. Frida has a simple Grimms doll house frame, which I love as it’s versatile (doubling up as a cafe or stable) and easy for little hands to navigate.

Farm house or stable. Ditto – an amazing gift to go with wooden or Schleich animals.

Plan Toys vegetable garden set. The loveliest toy to go alongside small dolls and animals!

Toy kitchen (IKEA / Myriad). A classic toy for toddlers and young children, again available to suit every budget. There is a debate within Montessori families about the use of toy kitchens, some eschewing them altogether, some preferring to use them alongside real crockery and food, and some using them for imaginative play whilst ensuring the child gets plenty of access to real food preparation. We fall in the latter camp.

Train set. A classic gift but a great one! Again, you’ll be able to find one to suit every budget. We have a cheap IKEA one for now. Setting the track up is like a puzzle in its own right too.

Frida loves using natural materials in her imaginative play, including precious stones, conkers, pieces of wood, stones, shells… A collection of natural “loose parts” gifted in a bag or basket would be the most wonderful gift for an older toddler or preschooler.

PUZZLES AND GAMES

Object permanence box. A wonderful, classic Montessori, gift for a baby. You can see Frida using hers here when she was 10 months.

Simple peg puzzles (shapes / three circles / circle). Classic Montessori and brilliant for older babies as an introduction to puzzles. I loved using the three circles puzzle with Frida when she was younger, and it was a good way to introduce her to size.

More complex peg puzzles (shapesfarm animals / wild animals / vehicles). Good for older babies and toddlers.

Shape sorter / shape sorterimbucare box. Young children love posting, and shape sorting is great for their hand / eye coordination. The animal shape sorter I linked to would be good for older babies – Frida was bought a second hand one and loved playing with the animals.

Two piece / multiple piece puzzles. Great for younger toddlers who are just starting to learn about how puzzles work.

Jigsaw puzzles. There are so many to love! We especially like the Ravensburger frame puzzles.

Magnetic fishing game. A lovely game which encourages coordination and fine motor skills. We have a cheap one my mum bought for Frida but I’ve linked to a similar one and there’s another here.

Animal dominoes. Animal matching, plus putting things in and taking them out of their box. What’s not to love?!

Bird Bingo. A Montessori family classic! We have learnt so much from ours. There is also a Bug Bingo as well as cat and dog versions.

Where’s My Piglet? A beautiful matching game with adult and baby animals to match. When children are older this can be played as a memory game. 

ART MATERIALS

Stockmar crayons. I love these so much. They smell divine as they are made from beeswax, their colours are beautiful, and they are a great shape for little hands to grasp. Putting them in and taking them out of a tin is an activity in itself! They come in sets of 8, 12 and 16.

Paint. I especially like these GALT squeeze and brush paint pens for young toddlers, although those looking for something more natural might prefer finger paints like these natural ones.

For older toddlers and preschoolers I cannot get enough of these Stockmar opaque paints. The colours are amazing and they are such good quality.

Colouring pencils.. We adore Lyra pencils – their quality is second to none. For a cheaper option IKEA do great cheap, chubby ones too – pick some up if you are making a trip!

Modelling clay. I love this Okonorm clay as it doesn’t dry out at all, and the colours are gorgeous despite being natural.

Colour paddles. Great for all ages, to use as a sensory item through to learning about colour mixing.

PRACTICAL LIFE

Cleaning set. A set which children can use to really clean alongside their parents

Clothes pegs. A slightly odd gift idea perhaps, but children love clothes pegs! If you want to push the boat out Grimms do beautiful ones. Frida also loves using her own clothes horse.

Apron. A lovely idea for little ones who enjoy baking (this might be better for older toddlers as infants will probably find it easier to use a full-sleeve bib or art coverall).

Gardening set. Even children who don’t have access to a garden will enjoy these tools as they can be used in a sand pit, or in a local wood, or to help pot up plants on a balcony. We have this set and they are perfectly suitable as well as reasonably priced.

Puddle suit. A brilliantly practical gift for any age child. Even babies who cannot crawl yet can use a waterproof suit for sitting outdoors and exploring the earth with their hands.

Crinkle cutter. The perfect stocking filler! Frida uses hers all the time, and has done for a long time now. It’s a great “first knife” and enables young children to contribute to cooking in a meaningful way.

MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS

Glockenspiel. These come at all price points and in all colours and styles. Frida’s was a gift and I love that it is a “proper” adult one rather than a toy one – having a better quality of material makes a big different for instruments as the sound is so much clearer.

Hand held bells. Perfect for all ages. These are a more natural looking option.

Tambourine. Great for making lots of noise!

Shakers and maracas. A great gift for little ones who have just started grasping.

There are more beautiful instruments on the Myriad website here, any of which would be a perfect gift.

FINE MOTOR SKILLS 

Grimms threading bead set. This set is fairly expensive for what it is, so you could probably make your own set using cheaper materials, however I think it would make a beautiful gift.

Bee hive set. A truly lovely toy which encourages fine motor skills, colour matching, and imaginative play.

Grimms rainbow sorting bowls. These are also quite expensive so you could probably make your own set using cheaper materials. Again though, a really beautiful gift which I am sure would be treasured.

Stickers. At two and a half Frida is still really into stickers, and the peeling makes for a great fine motor activity (for a younger child I would peel the backing off to make it a bit easier to begin with).

Letter work book. This is a great gift for older toddlers who might be starting to show an interest in letter work. This is a lovely book with textured letters to encourage tracing.

GROSS MOTOR SKILLS

Sheepskin rug. Perfect for a new baby to lie on next to a mirror, observing their movements. Great for an older baby who is sitting, and a lovely addition to a chair or floor in a toddler bedroom.

Crawl-through tunnel. Brilliant for infants who are just starting to crawl, for playing peek-a-boo, and for imaginative play. Can be used indoors or outdoors.

“First” slide. Frida has a very small slide which she was bought for her first birthday (similar to the one linked to though not the same) and it was a great gift – small enough that she could play on it without us hovering over her, and for her to feel a sense of accomplishment. It was also small enough that if we wanted to it could easily have been brought inside our home.

Wobbel board. Frida was bought one last year and it has just been brilliant. I cannot recommend it enough.

Micro-scooter. This 3-in-1 version is suitable from around the age of one (dependent on motor skills obviously) and will last for years to come. Frida was bought this for her first birthday and it’s been a fantastic present.

Rocking horse. These can be as expensive as your budget will stretch to, though I have linked to an IKEA rocking moose as this is what we have and Frida loves it! At two and a half she still uses it all the time.

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I hope that this list has given you – and your family members! – some inspiration for birthdays and celebrations, as well as some ideas for toys your infant or toddler may enjoy.

Do you agree with the list? Think I’ve missed something? If you end up being inspired let me know how you get on!

None of the items I have mentioned have been sponsored, although this post does contain some affiliate links at no cost to you. 

In praise of good quality art materials: Stockmar and Lyra review (+ discount code) 

Art is an important part of our daily rhythm at the moment, with Frida choosing to work with her paints, pencils, crayons and modelling clay most days – sometimes more than once. She has free access to paints, water, pencils, crayons, paper, and felt tips (you can see our current set up here), and tends to work with them either before breakfast, after lunch, or before supper. 

I am a firm believer in giving children the best possible quality art materials we can afford. If you have ever used poor quality art materials, you will know why! Cheap crayons which snap, brittle colouring pencils which leave a weak colour, box paints which are watery and pale. How can we expect our children to develop a love of art when their materials are so often second-rate and frustrating? I believe that giving children good-quality art materials sends them a clear message: that their art work is important and deserving.

I realise that good quality art materials are not always cheap, but perhaps gifting them at special occasions, or asking friends and family to do the same, would be a way to slowly build up a selection of great-quality materials. These have the benefit of often lasting much longer, making them more cost-effective in the long run.

With this in mind, I was so delighted to receive some new, quality, art materials in the post from One Hundred Toys for Frida and I to review!

Stockmar Opaque Colour Box Paints

I feel rather cheeky in reviewing the Stockmar Opaque Colour Box Paints, as if we weren’t sent them to review I would definitely have bought them myself.

We are big fans of Stockmar products, and own both the block wax crayons and the stick wax crayons (Stockmar crayons are worth buying if only for their gorgeous honey smell, let alone the wonderful colours, texture, ergonomic shape, the fact they last for ever… I could go on!) as well as some concentrated watercolours. I have talked about Stockmar before, but I really do love the brand, and the high-quality Waldorf-inspired art materials they produce for children. I was therefore very excited for Frida to try out the Opaque Paints!

We have not been disappointed. These paints are so richly pigmented that the gentlest paintbrush stroke on the paints translates into rich colour on paper – perfect for a two year old who is still learning how to use water colours. I have tried out other “children’s palettes” before and been so disappointed with the weak colours. These are excellent quality, and need so little water that I am sure they will last a long time (making them good value too). I think there is obviously a reason that these paints seem to often be found in Montessori and homeschooling family homes!

The set comes with a paintbrush, some white paint, and a mixing tray. Frida has been really enjoying mixing up some lighter colours using these.

I love watercolours for young children as they are such a wonderful practical life activity! There are so many steps; filling the water, fetching an apron, fetching paper, rinsing the brush after each use, emptying out the dirty water and cleaning the brush after use, wiping up any spills… There are also numerous benefits in terms of fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and building up little hand muscles in preparation for writing one day.

Now that we’ve tried these, I feel like every home should have a box of them. I can’t imagine a better set of watercolours for young children, and once again am really impressed by the quality and beauty of Stockmar products. If you have family or friends who are beginning to ask questions about holiday gifts, these would make a wonderful suggestion.

Lyra Ferby pencils

We were also sent some Lyra Ferby pencils to try out. I love that these are short, providing much more balance for little fingers, and have a triangular shape which makes it easier to hold them. Frida is still working on her pencil grip, and these pencils make the perfect “starter” pencils when moving on from crayons. The colour range is excellent (Frida was so drawn to the white pencil, and for a few days did a lot of white-on-white drawing) and the colours themselves are bright and highly pigmented.

Lyra also do longer crayons, and I love the look of this skin-tones set which has been designed to reflect the diversity of skin-tone children see all around them. Once Frida is drawing figures I will absolutely be buying her a set.

Frida was previously using IKEA pencils, which are around the same size but less ergonomically shaped. These are, unsurprisingly, much cheaper, although seeing the two used side by side I think it’s clear which ones are the better quality as the pigmentation in the Lyra pencils is much stronger, giving a brighter colour with less effort (this is important I think when you are two!) and a wider colour range.

We were also sent a little Lyra pencil sharpener. It seems like a pretty unexciting object, but Frida has been really taken with it, and is trying very hard to learn how to sharpen. Pencil sharpening is such a satisfying practical life and fine motor skill activity. I love how it is shaped to fit little fingers. I really recommend it as a first pencil sharpener.

A quick note on age: Frida is 28 months and really enjoying using these art materials. I think the age you could introduce them depends a lot on your child – some 18 month-olds would love these, whereas some 36 month-olds may still not have much of an interest in painting or drawing. Follow your child! For gifts, I would probably gift the wax crayons from the first birthday onwards, and then pencils and paints from the second birthday onwards.

I love gifting art materials – both for my own daughter, and for other children in our life. I have already bought Stockmar crayons in the past to give as birthday presents (the parents have assured me these have gone down well with their little ones), and I will absolutely be buying some of the Stockmar paints and Lyra pencils to gift for birthdays and Christmas presents, as Frida and I have both been very impressed by them. They are high quality materials which are so well designed for young artists, and I cannot sing their praises highly enough.

One Hundred Toys are kindly offering you lovely readers a 10% discount to use in their online store with the code: FRIDA101

They have so many other beautiful craft items and toys on their site; do have a look!

The Stockmar paints, Lyra Ferby pencils, and pencil sharpener were gifted to me from One Hundred Toys to review, but this review is my own honest opinion (and Frida’s!) I only ever recommend things which we have tried and genuinely loved – and would buy again. 

I also love the One Hundred Toys blog which you can read here: https://www.onehundredtoys.com/blogs/news 

A day in our home : reclaiming our rhythm 

I have been thinking a huge amount about our daily rhythm at the moment, and what I want that rhythm to look like. This summer has been quite difficult for me personally, and that coupled with the lack of structure that summers often bring has seen our rhythm flounder. I knew something had to change, so I re-read “Simplicity Parenting” (the bible on simplifying and rhythm setting in the home, I cannot recommend it enough). I started to make a mental note of what was working well and where the “low” points of our days were falling, observing patterns and thinking about where I could improve the flow of our day, as well as considering what was really important to me (lots of time for free play, daily time outdoors, habit forming, family meals) and how to be intentional about these things.

After lots of thought and observation, I think our current rhythm is working really well for us, so I wanted to share with you a little bit of what our weekday rhythm looks like.

I know that life is messy, and it won’t always be practical to stick to this rhythm. It might look quite rigid written down, but is actually much more fluid. At first when I read about having this sort of rhythm in the home, I will freely admit I thought “Gosh, how dull! Where is the excitement?” But my goodness, how my opinion has changed! I want Frida to feel secure, and confident about what her days and week look like. Life must often feel so powerless for young children, and I really believe that giving them back some power through predictability and stability leads to happier, calmer children who simply don’t feel as out of control. I know that the days where we follow a strong rhythm are just so much better for us. Less friction, less boundary-pushing, less stress, less impatience. More smiles, more cuddles, more joy. I end the day feeling tired but content, rather than tired and disappointed with myself and wishing I had done things differently.

I have put timings down to give you a rough idea, but I go by our moods and needs rather than the clock. If Frida has woken extra early or seems tired then everything might happen a bit earlier, or we might spend less time outdoors and more time snuggled up. What’s important is the rhythm and flow of the day, rather than what happens when.

Our weekday rhythm 

6-6:30ish – Frida wakes up, which is my prompt to wake up too. I’m really not a morning person so before we get up we usually have a snuggly cuddle under the duvet which gives me a few minutes to wake up until she pulls me out of bed and into her playroom. Frida sleeps in her own bed in our bedroom, but often climbs into our bed in the middle of the night and I wake up to find her next to me!

I sit with Frida in her playroom as she plays, until either she wants breakfast or my need for a cup of tea becomes too strong, and we go downstairs. The cat usually joins us. Before we go down there is “tidy up time”, prompted by me singing (poor Frida!) and tidying up.

7:30ish – Before each meal Frida fetches herself the appropriate crockery and cutlery from her shelves in the kitchen, chooses a bib (if eating something messy), and fills a glass with water. I do have to prompt her still sometimes. Frida is as involved with meal preparation as she wants to be; sometimes she will want to help a lot, and sometimes she doesn’t.

We light some candles as we sit down to eat. Breakfast on a weekday is usually porridge or maybe cereal, often with fruit. When we are done eating, Frida needs to put her bib in the washing machine, bring dirty dishes to the kitchen, wash her hands and face, then go to the loo, brush her teeth, and get dressed for the day. I help where needed.

At the moment my focus is on habit-forming and gaining independence around self-care such as dressing, pulling pants and trousers up and down, and washing hands and face, so this after-meal routine is important to me. My hope is that eventually all of these things just become ingrained as a habit and that she will need less and less help.

9 – At this point hopefully we are all dressed and ready to leave the house at some point within the next hour. Frida plays, works, or does some art once she is dressed.

10-12 – Outside. Currently I am trying to make sure we are out of the house by 10am. It doesn’t matter if it’s just to the local park, or even in the garden – what matters is that we are outdoors. In September we will start attending our wonderful Steiner playgroup again, adding in an outdoor session too which I’m really excited about. We also may try out a local forest school which has weekly child / parent sessions. This will leave a day a week with no scheduled plans, and another day for Frida to spend with her daddy (they do a special outing together every week as he works four days a week, giving me a day to do some work).

12:30 – Lunch. We usually have something simple like soup, a picky plate with raw vegetables, cheese, falafel etc, egg on toast, or fish and vegetables. Again Frida is as involved with preparation as she wants to be, abd fetches the things she needs. We light candles (unless we are having a picnic in the garden) and then after the meal the same routine applies as I described for breakfast. I usually clean up lunch whilst Frida plays, although she is always invited to help me.

1-3 – Quiet time. Now Frida no longer naps, she really needs a good chunk of quiet time to feel happy in the afternoon. We usually start this off by reading some books together, and then we go into her playroom whilst she plays and I sit and read or, occasionally, write a blog post (exactly what I’m doing now!)

Frida sometimes asks me to play too, but I remind her that this is quiet time for both of us. I might join in for five minutes and then go back to what I’m doing. This is so important for me, as I struggle if I don’t have any down-time. I am a better mother and wife for it, and I’m right there if she needs me. Win/win. Before we go down we have tidy-up time again.

3 – Tea time! We prepare tea (herbal for Frida or a babyccino) and a snack, and decamp to the dining table. We light a candle and share some books together – I usually try and include poetry, a long story, and a non-fiction book. We might also play a game, or look at some sandpaper letters or some art, depending on Frida’s mood and energy levels. After a chunk of quiet time where I am not engaging much, this is a welcome time of reconnection and fun. The snack also keeps Frida going until supper time.

4 – Time for Frida to work, do some art, or play, or for us to go for a walk, go in the garden, have a dance party – whatever appeals to Frida!

5 – Supper preparation / chores. As ever, Frida is invited to take part if she wants. Otherwise she amuses herself whilst I’m busy.

6 – Supper. We eat as soon as my husband gets home from work. It’s really important for us that we eat supper together regularly as a family, so unless Frida is really exhausted we try to make it happen. On weekends or on days my husband doesn’t work we might eat at 5:30 instead so Frida isn’t so tired.

6:30 ish – My husband takes Frida upstairs for a bath, tooth brushing, and stories, whilst I clean up after supper and have a bit of downtime.

7:00 ish – Bedtime. Frida either goes to sleep in her bed with us sitting next to her, telling stories, or in the sling with my husband. The latter is often the most effective at the moment. We then have the rest of the evening to relax and do any final chores.

9:30 – Bedtime for me! I try to be asleep by 10pm so I can get eight hours of sleep. I don’t always succeed but it’s my goal.

Phew! If you have read all of this, thanks for sticking with me! I would love to know more about your rhythm and what works for you. I will try and write more about rhythm, and helping children transition from one activity to another, in a future post, but for now – motherhood beckons… 

Poetry for children

One of my favourite things to do with Frida is to read poetry together. We curl up in an armchair, or on the sofa, or I read to her whilst she is in the bath, or on a train, or whilst she plays. Although I love reading story books, or factual books, with Frida, I definitely find reading good poetry to her the most enjoyable in terms of reading aloud.

The benefits of reading poetry to children are huge. I would argue that poetry has a big role to play in building the foundations for literacy.

Poetry is a wonderful way to build a child’s vocabulary and language structure. With the rhymes inherent in so many poems, even very young children can easily learn new words. The very nature of poetry demands for precise vocabulary to match the rhythm and rhyme of the poem, which means language is often more imaginative and varied than in a story book.

Poetry also encourages children to recognise patterns.  Poems are often repetitive in their structure and/or meter and/or language, which is brilliant for recognising patterns. Often children will be able to guess which word will come next despite having never heard a poem before, because they have understood the pattern.

Reading poetry to your child is also really enjoyable – a big benefit in my eyes! But don’t stop at just reading it. Memorise and recite some of your favourites (start short and work up), and encourage your child to memorise and recite them with you. They can do this long before they can read the poems out loud! This might sound unrealistic, but many parents find that their toddlers have learnt parts of their favourite books off by heart. Poetry is no different!

“Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they’re four years old, they’re usually among the best readers by the time they’re eight.”

[Fox, M. (2001). Reading Magic. San Diego, CA: Harcourt.]

You could begin by pausing before the end of each line of the poem, to allow your child the chance to finish it, then gradually leaving out more and more, giving them the chance to fill in the gaps, before finally asking them if they would like to tell you the poem. Of course they may well need no encouragement; I often hear Frida reciting short poems and verses to herself, and the delight and pride she takes in doing so is obvious. Your child may surprise you!

You can also make up silly poems together, a brilliant way of exploring rhyme and developing phonemic awareness.

Building a child’s poetry collection

Starting a poetry collection for your child might seem a little daunting, but it doesn’t need to be! Start with a couple of classics – don’t forget to make use of your local library too! – and take it from there. Maybe there were poems you loved as a child you would like to share?

If you are thinking of starting a poetry collection for a young child, here are some of my recommendations. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but I think this would provide an excellent base for any  child’s book collection, and they are certainly all books which we read often and love.

When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne. This is a must-have in my opinion. We read this so often!

Now We Are Six by A. A. Milne. Ditto. Simply superb.

Out and About: A First Book of Poems by Shirley Hughes. Gorgeously illustrated, gentle poems. I would recommend this to every family with toddlers.

A Child’s Book of Poems by Gyo Fujikawa. The illustrations in this volume are superb, as are some of the poems included.

Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot. So much fun! The language is fantastic and the poems are brilliant. Buy this if you want your child to effortlessly learn words such as prestidigitation and suavity.

The Complete Nonsense and Other Verse by Edward  Lear. We LOVE Lear’s nonsense poems – you have probably heard of the Owl and the Pussycat, his most famous one. When Frida was a tiny baby I could always calm her down if she was upset by reciting “The Quangle Wangle’s Hat”.

I would also add in a good nursery rhyme collection; we have The Puffin Book of Nursery Rhymes illustrated and compiled by Raymond Briggs.

If you enjoy reading poetry and rhymes together, I would encourage you to learn some simple verses together too, perhaps involving some finger-play. We love Waldorf-inspired verses and have been lucky enough to learn some through the Steiner playgroup we attend. There are too many to share with you, but a google search should bring up many!

I will leave you with one of Frida’s favourites:

“A big big cat, (open your hands further apart horizontally)

“And a small small mouse, (bring your hands closer together)

“Lived together in a tall tall house. (open your hands further apart vertically)

“But the big big cat (open your hands further apart horizontally)

“Ran fast fast fast, (use your hands to make running paws)

“And the small small mouse was… (bring your hands closer together but don’t close them)

“Caught at last!” (clap your hands as if catching a mouse)

Do you enjoy poetry or verses with your child? Which are your favourites?

“I like them so much!” Ostheimer review + discount code 

Frida’s most beloved toys are without any doubt her collection of wooden animal figures. These are played with all day, every day, with the rest of her toys mere accessories for her animals, acting as homes or caves or oceans or food, and I have watched as her imaginative play, storytelling skills, and vocabulary have flourished whilst she plays. With this in mind, I have been wanting to try out Ostheimer figures for a while now – their animal figures are natural, ethical, and absolutely stunning.

I was delighted, therefore, when One Hundred Toys offered us the chance to review some Ostheimer figures. The lovely Alexis made up a beautiful selection for Frida to play with, sending her the hunter, a wolf, a goose, a fox, a fawn, a rabbit with its ears up, and a running rabbit.

Ostheimer toys are all individually carved from native German hardwoods such as maple and ash, and then painted by hand, giving every figure a unique look and feel – no two are identical. These beautiful figures are then dipped in an all-natural walnut oil, giving them a soft finish. They feel wonderful, very tactile and pleasing for little hands.

In an age where machine-made, identical, disposable plastic toys seem to rule, I think that these toys are so special. Ostheimer toys will be especially appealing for parents inspired by a Montessori or Steiner approach, where there is a strong focus on providing a beautiful environment for our children, featuring natural materials where possible – in fact, one of the core Montessori principles for creating a prepared environment is beauty.

Being wooden, these toys won’t break or run out of batteries, so will last for years and can then be handed down to others, avoiding landfill. They also encourage children to use their imaginations and play creatively – there are so many uses for them! Even very young children can enjoy the sensory experience of holding a wooden figure (especially as these are safe to mouth as they don’t use harsh chemicals or dangerous paint) or enjoy a puppet show by their parent or caregiver. This is a lovely introductory article to puppet play the Steiner way and I have certainly seen Frida transfixed by the simple puppet shows at our parent child group. I also love this blog post on using animal figures in play.

When I gave Frida her new toys, she immediately started to play with them, incorporating other toys and launching into a complex story of animals being friends and running away from each other and sharing their homes. I took this as a very good sign! After a little while I asked her what she thought about the figures, and she replied “I like my new toys SO MUCH!”

She has been playing with them non-stop since they arrived, the hunter being at times a postman, a farmer, and a daddy (and also brilliantly fulfilling the role of hunter in Peter and the Wolf, Frida’s favourite piece of music). The rabbits in particular have rarely left her side, and we have had a lot of fun building different habitats and backdrops for the figures together.

If you’re just starting to think about buying some natural, open ended toys for your child, or perhaps you’re being asked by relatives what to buy for birthday or Christmas gifts, my recommendation would be to start with a few animal and human figures such as these Ostheimer ones (you could start with animals your child already knows and loves), a couple of playsilks, and some wooden blocks. Just these few toys would open up so many play opportunities and give room for young imaginations to take pride of place!

Ostheimer vs Holztiger 

The rest of Frida’s animal figures have all been Holztiger, so I was interested in seeing how they compared.

Below is a size-comparison with some Holztiger figures. The smaller ones are Ostheimer, which I actually prefer for little hands (and for storage purposes!); I’ve noticed Frida is really drawn to her smaller animals.

I think the style difference is quite visible too. The Ostheimer feel more natural to the touch – you can really feel the wood grain. Ostheimer figures are a bit more expensive that Holztiger (example the Holztiger wolf retails around £7 whilst the Ostheimer wolf is around £10) but if money were no object I would certainly have chosen to collect Ostheimer for Frida instead as I think there is something quite magical about them.

The two brands work together beautifully and going forward I will definitely be looking at buying more Ostheimer for Frida. On my wish-list for her is this beautiful rabbit hutch which I can see her playing with for hours on end, along with this magical wishing well (currently out of stock but I will be keeping a close eye on its return – something for Christmas I think). They are truly special toys which make wonderful gifts will take pride of place in any child’s home, and I really recommend them – as does Frida.

One Hundred Toys have kindly offered new customers 10% off their first order with the code: FRIDA100

They have so many other wonderful toys and craft items on their site; do have a look!

The Ostheimer figures were gifted to me from One Hundred Toys to review, but this review  is my own honest opinion (and Frida’s!). I only ever recommend things which we have tried and loved. 

I also love the One Hundred Toys blog which you can read here: https://www.onehundredtoys.com/blogs/news 

Toddler art activities: modelling clay 

We have recently introduced Frida to modelling clay! I have such fond memories of using modelling clay (I think we called it plasticine?) as a child, and so was really looking forward to getting some out to use with Frida. 

Although I could have made a batch of playdough and mixed up all different colours, I thought it would be simpler and nicer (and actually a bit cheaper than buying loads of food colouring!) to buy some ready-made modelling clay. 

I went for this stuff by Okonorm as it’s non-toxic and gorgeously bright soft clay that doesn’t dry out at all, despite being stored in open air. 

Although the primary benefit to modelling is that it’s fun, playing with materials like clay, dough and bees wax is so good for young children – the pinching, patting, kneading and rolling all help to build up the muscles and fine motor coordination they will need for holding a pencil and writing. 

I also find it’s a calming activity that we can do together as a family. There’s something so soothing about using modelling clay to create simple figures, even as adults. A few days ago the three of us sat down and modelled and chatted for a while before supper, and it was so lovely to create and play together in that way. And of course, modelling encourages imagination and creativity. 

Frida is still too young to be able to make anything realistic, so what I’ve found she really enjoys is if I make a simple figure or two (say, a cat and a mouse), and then she can make them “food” and “blankets” and so on. This stops her getting frustrated at her own technical limitations whilst allowing her to create purposeful things to use in her play. We have also made simple flowers together, and Frida is getting better at “fixing” models when they break, for example sticking an errant ear back onto a dog! 

This is obviously an approach tailored to Frida’s personality – other toddlers may prefer parents to leave them to it, but Frida definitely prefers us to be involved. 

Do you use modelling clay with your toddler? What’s your favourite way to use it?